Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: LUCK IN THE SHADOWS (1996) by Lynn Flewelling

I haven't noticed any slim, buff guys in tank t-shirts parading around our town yet - too bad. Still, I wish a happy Gay Pride Weekend to my many friends who will, with pride and fortitude, be celebrating over the next few days.

Having said that:
It's odd to think, but not hard to imagine, that one of the few series with two gay protagonists living, more or less, happily ever after, is one based in a fantasy alternate universe which resembles Europe's medieval ages if it resembles anything earthly familiar at all. Yeah, I assume the setting is earth, but earth of another time and place - a home of wicked sorcerers, evil witches, beautiful princesses, handsome princes, royal dynastic machinations, murder, skulduggery and oh yes, magic, wizards, exotic spells and counter-spells. The stuff of life.

Except for Harry Potter and the Temeraire books of Naomi Novik, I'm not, normally, a big reader of fantasy but this series was enthusiastically recommended a few years ago by a friend on a reading forum and sure enough, I picked up the first book, LUCK IN THE SHADOWS, and was pretty instantly hooked. Author Lynn Flewelling's series featuring the adventures of Seregil and Alec is like nothing else I've read although if you, unlike me, have been reading fantasy for awhile, it  might  seem a little less exotic to you. To me, it was all brand new - at least, the colorful trappings, anyway.

The story is an age-old one: A man disgraced who can never go home, pretends to indolence and caring for nothing but carousing when in reality he is a spy for the forces of good. (Who these forces are is still relatively unclear to me even after having read all the books in the series except the very latest.) I think it's all about good and evil at constant war with one another in the guise of warring kingdoms and factions - that sort of thing. I still find some of the trappings of fantasy occasionally mystifying.

Anyway, the spy, rogue, thief and noble, Seregil (LOVE that name) of Rhiminee has been alive for longer than any of us can imagine (without, in appearance, showing his true age) so he comes equipped with long-ago history and back-story which is revealed by the author as the books progress. When we first meet  Seregil he is a 'guest' in a dark dungeon, cast away in prison awaiting his chance to escape. This present incarceration is the result, of course, of one of his many colorful adventures. While there Seregil gets a new cell mate, a young man named Alec of Kerry. Once they manage a daring escape, they become allies and Seregil takes young Alec under his wing as an apprentice. This book could have easily been called The Spy Master's Apprentice because that is precisely what Seregil does - he teaches Alec the ways and means of becoming a master spy - a calling that Alec appears to have an aptitude for.

In the dark lands (resembling medieval England) in which these two dwell, very little, very few can be trusted and a friend one day may be an enemy the next. But Seregil and Alec persevere as they're swept up in a sinister plot in which neither may come out alive. With death, destruction and betrayal all around them, the apprentice must soon learn the ways of the master if he and Seregil are to survive.

Seregil, despite what he would have the world believe, is a man of honor and though we suspect that along the way he is developing an affection for Alec which is more than that of teacher for student, he controls his emotions and doesn't let on. Alec, he believes, is too young to deal with any added emotional baggage. In this first book, LUCK IN THE SHADOWS, they are no more than friends who must unravel a devious, murderous plot.

It's only beginning with the second book in the series, STALKING DARKNESS, that Seregil and Alec's relationship develops along a certain, not entirely unexpected, emotional path.

The main thing I like about this series is that, like all good fantasy or for that matter, all good books in general - the personal relationships are what matter. If there were no interesting relationships among the main characters and their friends, allies and enemies, there'd be no point in reading the story.

Though, so far, Seregil and Alec are still together, continuing their daring adventures, often being torn apart and having to fight their way back to each other - harrowing to say the least - always working for the good of their friends, allies and noble houses, who knows what the future holds? The main draw of these books is the relationship of Seregil and Alec and, I suppose, a wish to see what author Lynn Flewelling does with it next.

Too bad this sort of story, minus the wizards and casting of spells, couldn't. apparently, take place in our everyday sort of world.


Turns out that Internet Movie Database has a page for LUCK IN THE SHADOWS which means, there's a project, at least, in some stage of development. No screenplay, no cast, far as I know. But good news nonetheless.

This post is my entry in FRIDAY'S FORGOTTEN BOOKS a weekly meme hosted by Patti Abbott at her blog, PATTINASE. Check on over there to see what other books other bloggers are talking about today.


  1. Cool! Thanks for joining me in Gay Pride FFB. (I may have scared away my usual readers with my post. Ah well.) I think if you dipped into fantasy more often you would not be too surprised to find that it's probably the most gay friendly genre in fiction. Interestingly many fantasy writers and SF writers are gay although they may not overtly write about gay themes in their work. Makes a lot of sense when you think about what those genres are really about. I'll be looking for this book very soon and will eagerly read it and maybe continue on with the series.

  2. John: I'll be around to post a few comments as usual. You didn't scare me off. :)

    We can only do what we do.

    I think it's just easier in fantasy to write about things or invent things WITHOUT needing much explanation. A make-believe world is that much easier to manage.

  3. Well, sf and fantasy have a natural attraction for those who are dissatisfied with the here and now, as most homophilic folk have every right to be, but I'm not sure the numbers/percentages are vastly larger in fantastic fiction writing than in other sorts.

    You really have to sketch in more with fantastic (or historical) fiction than with most contemporary fiction...that makes things a bit tougher...on the writing end, anyway.

  4. Todd: You may have to sketch in more, work a little harder, but I still say fantasy is an easier thing to MANAGE in most respects. But no, you can't be a dummy and write fantasy OR science fiction.

  5. You do have an option of making a world the way you'd like a world to be, indeed.

  6. That's precisely what I meant, Todd. :)

  7. Happy Gay Pride weekend and month!

    We can all imagine the world to be one free of all bigotry where everyone has the same rights and respect.

  8. Kathy: I can definitely imagine a world free of bigotry. If only it were that easy to make it so. :)

  9. I read this trilogy several years ago and it remains one of my favourite fantasy series ever. There are another three books I think? Must get those at some stage.

  10. The problem is, if you make your fantasy world a little too convenient, a little too perfect, or a little too bend to your authorial will...or a lot risk making either a very dull story, a very sloppy one, or usually both.

  11. Cath: Aren't these terrific books? I can only hope the movie page on imdb will have some definite news soon.

    Now I'm beginning to think about casting....!

    I haven't read the very latest one, but I'll get there soon enough.

  12. Todd: If you have imagination and a little bit of the gift of the esoteric in your thinking and creating, then perhaps your invented world will be fun to visit.

    If there's no fun, I don't care how brilliant the writing is.

    The kind of fantasy or sci-fi I've enjoyed reading all take place in worlds that the authors HAVE bent to their will. I don't know how else you can do this sort of thing.

    But of course, there have to be surprises, too. :)

  13. There's a difference in self-discipline between portraying a personal utopia where everyone is a saint (without some serious explanation of how this came about), which is the kind of thing I mean by a world bent to the will of the writer, and a world where humans (or their analogs) behave in a more human fashion.

  14. Yes, I agree. I think writing about a 'perfect' world (though of course everyone's definition of 'perfect' is different) would probably not be much fun to read about. I think imagination AND discipline must go hand in hand.

  15. As you know I loved The Last Herald Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey that featured a gay protagonist. I think this a series of books you told me about then, so I'm really going to have to get on the ball and get them.

    I didn't go to any pride events as my weekend was busy anyway. My spirits rose though by what happened in NY.

  16. I'm glad my homestate of NY - the place where I grew up - stood up and did the right thing. I'm a proud New Yorker even if I no longer live there. :)

    You'll love the Nightrunner series, Ryan. I know it. But read them in order.


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